GV leads pack in mental health resource expansion

Grand Valley’s Counseling Center is located on the second floor of the Student Services Center. 
 GVL / Andrew Nyhof

Grand Valley’s Counseling Center is located on the second floor of the Student Services Center.
GVL / Andrew Nyhof

Allison Rafferty

With mental health concerns rising across college campuses nationwide, universities are providing the resources, facilities and expertise to aid in this increasing demand for mental health care, and Grand Valley State University is no exception. 

According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health Annual Report (CCMH) in 2016, the average demand for counseling services across college campuses nationwide grew at least five times faster than average institutional enrollment from 2009-2015. 

Students’ increasing need for mental health care services has been largely for depression and anxiety-related disorders. 

“Over the past four years the GVSU Counseling Center has accommodated a 47 percent increase in student appointments,” said GVSU Counseling Center director Amber Roberts.

Roberts said that GVSU’s increase in demand for mental health services is not unlike that of other universities across the country. There are a multitude of possible variables that could account for the increase in demand for mental health services. 

Roberts credited Generation Z students being “more comfortable seeking mental health services and viewing these services as important to their overall wellness” as one of these variables. She also listed excessive use of technology to be a variable. 

“Mental health research is increasingly looking at technology, screen time and social media as correlates to increased depression and anxiety,” Roberts said. “The smartphone was invented in 2007 and many of our students have spent their developmental years with access to technology that has been shown to be detrimental to mental health (when used more than 1.5 to two hours per day).”

Roberts said she thinks that it’s a combination of both the aforementioned variables that are contributing the the increase in demand. 

In an interview with MLive, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Loren Rullman said that GVSU delivers a high quality of care when it comes to mental health through a range of servicing options. Rullman also said that GVSU has better-than-acceptable wait times for individual and group counseling, and students with urgent needs are seen immediately.

In response to this increase in demand for mental health care services, GVSU has been making multiple efforts to help improve its mental health care facilities and resources. 

According to both Roberts and Rullman, GVSU has funded an additional psychologist to begin in fall 2019, expanded group therapy offerings, trained a network of almost 1,000 faculty, staff and students as suicide prevention “gatekeepers” with evidence-based Question Persuade Refer training and provided over 725 campus mental health wellness educational programs to encourage early intervention in referrals and student self-care.

Rullman said that GVSU is also currently working on resilience training to prevent mental health disorders from developing. 

“We are fortunate at GVSU to have one of only four accredited university counseling offices in Michigan (and one of only eight in the Midwest) with high quality counseling staff, a range of counseling service options and the support of the university to provide this care for student success,” Roberts said. “I believe GVSU is a leader in the quality of student mental health care, contemporary with research and innovative with service delivery. (GVSU is) doing very well keeping up with the demand we observe increasing among our university peers.”